Monday, September 3, 2012

This Weekends Labor

Because it was Labor Day Weekend did not mean that I sat idle. Well Sunday was very idle but other than that day I have been busy creating photographs. Starting Saturday I when out to find things that struck a note with me. I have lived here all my life but this town is changing all the time and the way I see it in my minds eye is not always the reality of the situation.

Like I said I started out Saturday afternoon by the Great American Building just to look. Of course I took my camera. I figured that if I saw something I wanted to look not only to work out how I was going to photograph it in my minds eye, but I wanted to see it in the viewfinder. I have found with a few subjects the way I see it in my head doesn’t always translate in the same way in the viewfinder.

After the flood of 08 Cedar Rapids had been building a new Federal Courthouse Building down by the Great American Building (GAB). A design that is curved in the front with metal pillars and lots of glass. The middle has an open space that from either side you can see through. From one side it depending where you are standing it frames the Allient Building. As I walked around the building the side facing west caught my eye, so I sat and stared at it.

I started to work out how I wanted to capture this building. I was caught by the strong lines that push my eye to follow up and then left to right. The over hang in combination of the overhang balances nicely with the solid walls where the courts are housed. So I set up the camera on the tripod, placed the graduated ND filter on the lens and began to frame it. I knew I wanted a long exposure because I wanted the clouds drag through the sky to add a complementary motion against the lines of the building. Once I had it framed I thought I would snap a few photos just to be able to workout what I wanted to do with it later.

I then went to the a bridge that caught my eye when I biked to worked each day. Specifically the underside of the bridge. It had arches and shapes the repeated and moving water. Again I sat and worked out the angles looking through the viewfinder and checking exposures. After taking a few photos I was not happy with the results. Although the repeating shapes were pleasing it was the what was on the side or background of the photo that was distracting. So I walked across the bridge to check out the other side. In a nut shell it was not as good as I hoped. I think what makes the long bridge and peer shots is either an interesting background or the lack of on and this bridge had neither.

By this time I was ready to head home. As the GAB came in to view I started to work on how I wanted to photograph this building. The glass and angles is what made me want to photograph this building. After walking around it I found the spot I wanted to shoot. Going through the same process as the Fed Building I worked out the angels and exposures I thought would achieve my vision to print. I took a few photos and when home. With both buildings I took notes to use later to help move what is in my head to the paper.

I got home and with sufficient amount time passing I started to work the images. Again I am still in my process of working the image out to paper. Because I shot in RAW format I have some latitudes in the exposures. I begin with the Federal Building . I know that I want the strong lines of the building to stand out. The sky is key for that. The other element was the light on the glass. I did not want strong reflections off the glass that caused blinding highlights but it should accent the glass. Then the overall detail should not be lost to shadow except for a few spots.

I started out tweaking the exposure in RAW and bringing it over to PhotoShop. I started to use layer masking tool in combination with the curves tool. When I do exposure corrections I have started to think in zones. It’s new in a way. I have always done it but I never had a name for it or tied it with the Zone System. I don’t know why but I have always kept that thought process separate even though they are the same. So I move the windows down to a Zone 7ish from the 9 it was. After I established that I moved around the photograph and adjusted, burned, dodged the areas to make the overall grayscale pleasing while keeping it wide. The clouds started to fall into place during this process. I wanted them in motion but as they stands now I could not have planned it any better.

The upper right hand corner is hovering around a Zone 9 then moves down towards the building to a 8 and 7 with the edges a 3. That light really accents the west side glass so well. In the shadow areas I brought up enough detail so the metal pillars just don’t go up to a black abyss but not enough to be distracting.

At this point the photograph was still black and white. I like black and white but it can be a little cold so I like to warm things up and move it to a sepia tone. Once I did that I was starting to see the textures and grittiness of the glass and how rough the building looked for being almost finished . This is were I was not sure if I had been true to my vision or if I strayed off to something else. So I slept on it.



The next day I looked at it again. I came to the conclusion that it was both. A version of what I had in mind and a creation that built and expanded on it. I have to say I kind of surprised myself with the end product. For the final print I am toying with putting it on a metallic finish and of course make it BIG! If all comes out the way I think it will I am going to print it, frame it, and put it in the gallery. Keep you posted.